“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being invited to dance.

The AISTS has awarded the fourth annual AISTS Future Female Leader in Sport scholarship to Pakistan/Australian, Rida Ahmed.

Rida Ahmed is a strong believer that sport is a powerful tool for international diplomacy and global progress, and that those associated with this industry have the ability to influence the wider society, lead the way and be champions for diversity by promoting gender & cultural diversity and inclusion.

Rida was born in Karachi, Pakistan and has lived in various cities across Pakistan and Australia. While predominantly growing up in Pakistan, her formative years were spent in Perth, Australia, where she completed her high school education as well as a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Management.

“Growing up in two very competitive and sports-driven nations, I always had a great interest in sports and in particular trying to understand the stark difference in the management of sports in the two countries.”

Rida’s first exposure to the world of sports was when she moved to Australia in 2000, the year of the Sydney Olympics.

Sydney 2000 Olympic Games

“I remember being blown away by just how much sport hype was around us.”

It wasn’t until 2012 when she was unexpectedly offered her first role in the sports industry – to volunteer with the Pakistan Hockey team. Straight after that tournament, Rida was offered the role of the Pakistani Liaison for the team heading to the 2012 Champions Trophy in Melbourne, where the team secured a Bronze Medal.

Since then Rida has accompanied the Pakistan Hockey team on various occasions and in a range of roles which include team management, athlete representation, team liaison and media & promotions in Australia, including their most recent campaign at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

The Pakistan Hockey Team at the Commonwealth Games, April 2018

Rida said that “working with this team, in particular, I have had the opportunity to closely observe the problems and issues of organisational management in sporting bodies, across the board. The athletes, while extremely talented and competitive on the global stage, are at a significant disadvantage in comparison to their international counterparts. These teams may have limited opportunities to travel to international tournaments due to finances, do not have the same standard of training or level of investment as other nations, are unable to host international tournaments at home due to the country’s current state of stability, are unable to keep up in international rankings purely based on the low number of competitions they do participate in, and until recently have had limited exposure to international coaches or players”.

This is predominantly the main factor that has inspired Rida to pursue a career in the sports industry.

“I strongly believe that in order to bring about change, and reform national sporting bodies you need the right managers with the right skills, who are passionate and committed.”

It was Rida’s professional “non-sports” work that made her realise the skills she uses in her day-to-day job would be greatly beneficial in a sports environment and this was why her decision to apply for the AISTS Master of Advanced Studies programme was an easy one.

Ever since I first heard about AISTS, I knew that was where I wanted to go and I had zero hesitation.

What has attracted Rida the most to the AISTS was the multidisciplinary approach and the diverse options available to participants whether it be athlete management, journalism, sponsorships, venue management, data and analytics and much more. 

“Having the multidisciplinary approach in the AISTS programme will allow myself to be immersed into all aspects of the industry, including medicine and law!”

Rida feels extremely honoured to be the first Australian to receive the AISTS Future Female Leader in Sport scholarship. In 2011 the June Canavan Foundation established the scholarship however due to financial restraints it was ceased.  However, in honour of June Canavan AISTS re-established the scholarship in 2016. 

Previous scholarship recipients include Thaysaa Plum (2011), Carolina Ahumada (2012), Olivia Aya Nakitanda (2013), Otonye Iworima (2016), Carla Wuhrer (2017) and Ana Vivar (2018). “Learning about the life of Dr Canavan it’s hard to not be touched by her passion for sports and social work, and her dedication to advancing women leaders in sports”.  For Rida, the scholarship is a great source of motivation and she feels a responsibility to immerse herself in the program and be committed to the future of female leadership.

“In line with the spirit of the scholarship, I will be going into the MAS programme motivated to inspire girls and women, regardless of their age or background, to back ourselves and support each other in striving for leadership.”

Rida also has a passion for diversity and inclusion. “Inclusion, as much as diversity, is critical for success in any field. I am a strong believer that sport is a powerful tool for international diplomacy and global progress, and those associated with this industry have the ability to influence the wider society, lead the way and be champions for diversity by promoting gender & cultural diversity and inclusion.”

Once her 15 months of study are complete Rida would like to continue pursuing work with athlete management and working for multi-sporting tournaments.  She is very interested to explore opportunities where she can contribute to the sports world, particularly through athlete welfare and advocacy, and using sports as a tool to advance social causes.

To find out more about the AISTS MAS programme click here